The Utah Winter Games opened with a mixture of skiing and shooting here Saturday.
Under what biathlon skiers called "almost perfect" conditions, a field of 58 competitors skied around the groomed Jeremy Ranch course Sunday morning. It was, said biathlon director Noel Olsen, the largest field ever to compete in a Utah event.The No. 1 skier/shooter was, as expected, Jon Engan, a Montana resident and member of the U.S. National Team. Engan won the event even though he gave up over a minute in penalties to runner-up Jeff Stuart of Ogden.
In this event, Engan's strength was in his skiing. Of the 10 targets present, Engan missed three while Stuart missed only one. Engan was a member of the U.S. cross country team that went to Calgary for the last Olympics, but missed making the biathlon team.
In the biathlon, competitors ski over a cross country course and along the way stop and shoot at five targets at two separate stations - one shooting prone, the second standings. For each miss a skier must take one turn around a 150-meter penalty loop.
Olsen said a good skier, like Engan, can usually make the loop in about 35 seconds.
Saturday, besides racing on the 10 kilometer course, Engan had to make three runs on the penalty loop, to only one by Stuart. Olsen missed one target in the prone position and two standing; Stuart missed one prone target. Engan's time was 40:12 to 41:01 for Stuart. Third was Chris Melgaard of Michigan in 46:15.
In the women's five kilometer race, Dina Newhouse was first in 24:46, Stacy Bennett wsa second in 30:30 and Debra Nordyke was third in 31:14.
In the junior five kilometer event, Jeff Buemthal was first in 24:59, Chris Jorgensen was second in 28:52 and Eric Jensen was third in 30:52.
According to Olsen, conditions were almost ideal for the opening event. He pointed out, however, that temperatures were low at racetime, which made the snow a little slower.
He also said it was encouraging to see the turnout for this little-known event.
"I think we've established ourselves. People know that when they come here they'll compete in a quality event, which is why we got people from Alaska, Michigan and Montana. I think, too, that more people are interested in trying the sport," he said.
The Utah Winter Games will continue for the next two weeks, involving such sports at alpine and cross country skiing, hockey and ice skating.
Scheduled today will be a biathlon relay at Jeremy, recreational cross country race at Soliutde Nordic Center, mogul skiing at Brighton and ski archery back at Jeremy.